The Double Secret Life Of ChapStick Lip Balm
My old man was into ChapStick, the famous lip balm in a tube. It almost seemed like if he forgot to use it just once, his mouth might grow shut. I never thought too much about ChapStick beyond its great relief on blustery winter days here in Chicago, but there's more to the little lip balm than you might know...
Like many world-wide classic brands, ChapStick had humble beginnings at a family-run business. Dr. Charles Browne Fleet plied his trade at the sweet end of the intestinal tract (you may recognize his name from the famous enemas he developed) by creating the first lipstick-shaped balm in the late 1800's.
Starting in 1912, the manufacturing rights were sold to a number of companies until ending up with current holder Wyeth. 1971 saw the first flavors introduced, and now ChapStick is part of a sprawling line of lip care products. This year Wyeth has even brought back the "classic" style packaging that I remember constantly being in my father's pocket.
1972 saw the ubiquitous ChapStick pressed into service as a spying tool. ChapStick tubes were modified with hidden microphones and were used by G. Gordon Liddy and E. Howard Hunt during the time of the Watergate break-in. I couldn't find any details of how exactly to use these microphones - I'm guessing that the operator would hold them in his hand with the wires running up his sleeve. If you look closely, you can see a pushbutton on the body of the ChapStick, which must be a clue. I'm guessing a push-to-talk button like on a walkie-talkie. Loose lips might sink ships, but at least they won't be chapped while doing it.
Who would have thought that ChapStick would have had such a storied past? It also makes me wonder what secret spy missions Susie Chapstick might have been on...